Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: Hunger

Jackie Morse Kessler
Young Adult/Fantasy
Riders of the Apocalypse/Book 1
Harcourt Graphia/October 18, 2010

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

Intense at times, Hunger looks at the desperate lengths some will go to gain control of at least one piece of their lives. Lisa is determined to control her weight by controlling what she eats and how much she exercises. She is vigilant in knowing every calorie of every piece of food that passes her lips. Her knowledge of not only the number of calories but how much exercise will be needed to burn those calories is astounding. So when she is chosen as Famine, it is beyond her reality. But Death convinces her that yes, she really is Famine, complete with a horse.

Lisa may look like a typical teenager but she is beginning to fall under the pressure of trying to be thin. It's becoming obvious that she has a problem, at least obvious to her friends. Her parents are less than involved in Lisa's life, partly because of their focus on their own obsessions. They also give the impression that they are willing to take the easy way out and take Lisa's at her word that she is fine. The only one Lisa feels comfortable around is her friend Tammy, who also has an eating disorder.

Lisa's responsibilities as Famine are quite simple - cause chaos by taking food away. This is to be done on a large scale. Lisa begins to love the power she can wield but in the end, hates the results. As if being Famine isn't stressful enough, Lisa still has her home life to contend with. She's not talking to her best friend. Her boyfriend is worried about her and there's her parents seeming lack of interest. Lisa's insights are thoughtful and terribly sad. This is clearly a teen in trouble who doesn't know where to turn. Her thoughts are dark at times but she still maintains a glimmer of hope.

Lisa's job as Famine brings her into contact with Death, War and Pestilence. She also meets her horse who takes her all over the world to bring hunger and chaos. Lisa not only names her horse but grows to feel affection for the beast. Theirs is an odd relationship, little girls who want a pony never imagined a horse such as Lisa's. Of the three other Riders, it's Death that receives the most page time and makes the biggest impression. He's a fan of Nirvana and even takes the likeness of Kurt Cobain. He projects a feeling of ancient power while still giving off an almost relaxed attitude.

Lisa learns much about hunger and control as she ventures out on her travels as Famine. She also learns that like her life, everything is not as it seems and she has more control than she thinks. Hunger does have dark, intense moments that will no doubt leave an impression on even the most jaded of reader. It did have some lighter moments but they were few which is not surprising given the subject. I would have liked to know more about Lisa and her relationship with her parents and her best friend. It did feel like things happened too quickly and were resolved with that same quickness.

Rating: B

Riders of the Apocalyse

Loss (March 20, 2012)
Breath (2013)

*Ms. Kessler is donating a portion of the proceeds of Hunger to The National Eating Disorders Association. If you think someone you know has an eating disorder, please help them seek help. NEDA is a good place to start.


  1. Nice review, Leslie :) Unfortunately, I have no interesting reading this book ^_^; Just doesn't seem my style...

  2. Nath ~ This isn't a story for everyone. Definitely something I had to be in the mood for.

  3. I agree with your review, Leslie. I think I was planning on giving it a B+ when I finished reading it, but as I started reviewing it, I ended up grading it higher. I have a friend whose niece struggled with anorexia and I think the author captured the disorder with tremendous accuracy and sensitivity--but with directness. I was impressed.

  4. Christine ~ Kessler does well getting to the heart of the disease. It's such a sensitive topic but she handled it well.